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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Two heads are better than one: Mutant tortoise comes out of his shell


Double header: Magda (left) and Lenka make up a seven-week-old African Spurred Tortoise discovered in Slovakia

Held up in between two human fingers, this amazing two-headed African Spurred Tortoise is a rare sight to behold - and even evolutionist Charles Darwin would struggle to explain its unique deformity.

Delicate, precious and tiny, this pair, who have been handed two names - Madga (left head) and Lenka - are only seven weeks' old.

The duo, born in Slovenia in mind November, also have five legs (one more than normal) and were displayed in Zilina today.

Although the tortoise looks small now, it should grow much, much bigger. In fact, the species are the third largest in the world, after Darwin's friends, the Galapagos Tortoise, and the Aldabra Giant Turtle.

Unique: The rare tortoise also has five feet and was displayed at Zilina on Monday

The African spurred tortoise, which in Latin is Geochelone sulcata (geo - earth; chelone - tortoise; and sulcus - furrow (in reference to the distinctive scales)), is the biggest mainland tortoise in the world.

Usually they inhabit the southern edge of the Sahara desert, in northern Africa and adults are usually 18 inches (45 cm) in shell length, and weigh 70 to 100 pounds.

Fits in the hand: Adults can grow to have 24 to 36 inch long (60-90 cm) shells weighing 150 pounds (70 kg)

Specimens with 24 to 36 inch long (60-90 cm) shells weighing 150 pounds (70 kg) are not unknown and they grow from hatchling size (2-3 inches) very quickly, reaching 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) within the first few years of their lives.

The lifespan of an African Spurred Tortoise is about 30-50 years, though can live much longer - the oldest in captivity is 54 years, located in the Giza Zoological Gardens, Egypt, 1986.

On the up: Though the tortoise is tiny now, the species will grow to become the third biggest in the world

source: dailymail


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